I am definitely not one of the “family” aspect of Thanksgiving. Among my blood relatives, I am considered to be the “kooky, crazy, hippie, Satanic, commie” — a series of labels that I will ignore until it is repeatable stuffed into my face. Then I am likely to retaliate. To this day, I swear I never meant to dislocate my cousin’s shoulder when I twisted his arm…but I still feel the fucker had it coming. I got the “violent” tag added to the previously mentioned descriptives after that year. Inevitably, after the poorly organized “sports” competition held in the yard; after a small amount of the food has been plopped onto the plates – the conversation turns to the hallowed and respected tradition of taboo subjects – religion and politics.
Being a Pagan, I hear all kinds of commentary made my way during Thanksgivings that I bother to spend with family. One year, two of my cousins were whispering in one corner of the room about how I was into “Satanic” rituals. Apparently, they thought they were being quiet and unheard. I fired off a retort that I was not into Satanic rituals, but instead into Pagan rites. If they could just lend me a few of their female friends – I would be happy to show them a Beltane rite that would have each of their friends smoking a pack of cigarettes for relief. Yeah, typically shock-jock statements. But politics leaves an even uglier stain on the couch.
My brother-in-law is a Conservative member of the House of Representatives for his state. He is also a high-profile lawyer in his city as well. His penchant for quoting Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity in any conversation he makes is enough to make me stab him with the carving fork. The last year I spend with my family during Thanksgiving, he told me I was a “Godless hippie”. When I pointed out I was a Pagan and had far more Gods than his own self-professed Trinity, he snidely shot back – “What’s the difference?” “No God versus a whole host — big difference.” This kicked off a major argument with most of the talking being done on his side. The next morning, he and my sister packed up and went home…not one word from him, me being called an “asshole” by my sister – and a major argument kicking off between me and my parents over how I could have been more civil. Now, fourteen years later – its an incident that still colors any discussion I have with my parents at this time of the year – as I beg off any Thanksgiving gathering they dream of.
But Thanksgiving celebrations aren’t always bad for me. I have attended many gatherings put together by friends – well, friends that I consider to be closer to me than my own blood relatives. Food is created, brought to the gathering and consumed by all. The fare is typically non-traditional. Our time spent together is more of a party environment. One year, we did some singing with some sort of game box console (and everyone begged me to never do that again). Another year, we did a dance off competition with the same game box. No religion. No politics. Just people enjoying one another’s company and being foolish together. No slurs. No insults…well, most of the time.
I get that other people have those same types of gatherings with their families. I also get that other families are a lot more accepting of other members of the family, no matter how “weird” or “different” that they are. I also get that there are folks that have even deeper, emotionally scarring moments at family gatherings than I have. I sympathize with those folks quite a lot….and really hope that other people reading this may see that in some of their other friends. Do what Joni did for me and my two co-workers back in 1988 – adopt them for the holiday….